screencaps and smart-ass captions by Jess
Puck Man / Pac-Man
And so the legacy starts. The legacy of a little yellow disk whose main purpose in life is to endlessly eat dots, all the while running from a pack of ghosts whose mission in life is to make him open his mouth so wide, he'll disappear.
Pac-Man was not the first Namco game to become well-known (that honor would go to Galaxian), but it was the game that spawned their immortal mascot character. The honor of creating Pac belongs to Tohru Iwatani, a Japanese guy. By complete coincidence, it seems a lot of famous video game mascots were created by Japanese guys, and Pac-Man is arguably the most famous of them all.
It's common knowledge that Japan originally planned to call the game Puck Man, and in fact, that is what it was called until Midway brought the game to the US. They were hesitant to put the original name on its arcade machines, as a name like "Puck" would be too easy to vandalize by hooligans, who could change it to hilarious words like "Pluck" and "Puwk", which is Swedish for "using picnic baskets to smuggle false teeth". At any rate, the original creators apparently liked the new name better, and that's how Pac-Man got the name everyone knows him by.
Another curious change Midway made was the cabinet art design. Namco's original design for Pac was pretty much the way he looks now, with the orange gloves and red shoes and everything. Midway's vision of Pac consisted of some goofy spectre with blood-red eyes. Even back when I was four years old, I couldn't help but question how that horrible thing and the adorable little circle in the arcade game were supposed to be one in the same. Nonetheless, it was the image not only used on the cabinet, but on all the licensed merchandise produced in the US back in those days. My friends had bedsheets with Pac-Man's haunting eyes splayed all over them.
Like all games at the time, Pac-Man was simple, endless, and somewhat trippy. And unlike the others, it spawned about 45 spinoffs and sequels over the next 25 years and counting... and... well... most of them weren't all that great. But we'll always remember the original and all the good times it provided.
Pac-Man/Puck Man: Little. Yellow. Different.
Blinky/Shadow/Oikake/Akabei/Urchin/Macky: The red ghost... the most dangerous one of all. He'll chase Pac-man to the ends of the earth.
Pinky/Speedy/Machibuse/Romp/Micky: The pink ghost. He's called "Speedy" but he's not the fastest one. He prefers to use surprise tactics. Pinky was later revealed by Namco to be a girl, something that shocked players everywhere ten times more than Samus did.
Inky/Bashful/Kimagure/Aosuke/Stylist/Mucky: The blue ghost. He likes to run away!
Clyde/Pokey/Otoboke/Guzuta/Crybaby/Mocky: The orange ghost. He's kind of an idiot.
Super Pac-Man also sort of appears in one of the cinemas.
In August 1982, I turned 5, and as a gift, I got my own 2600 and a set of games, with Pac-Man being among them. I was a little too young to feel real disappointment, but even then, something didn't feel right to me. Why couldn't couldn't Pac turn and face the direction of the pellets while moving vertically, and what was with those colors?
Only later did I learn how awful this game truly was. I mean, the game was actually pretty new when I got it, and the 2600 was 5 years old. This was a time when developers were supposed to know how to really make use of the power of the system, yet the game is easily comparable or worse in quality to the games released in the 70s. The colors were about as murky as murky could get, animation was limited, the board layout was hilariously bad, and worst of all, only one ghost could be featured onscreen at one time, resulting in some legendary flicker.
It's pretty clear that the game was rushed, and it was, in fact, based on an unfinished prototype. Atari wanted it out in time for Christmas. They made a mistake, and it was TIME TO PAY THE PRICE.
Even though it wouldn't happen for another couple years, 2600 Pac-Man is one of the games specifically mentioned among the contributing factors to the great videogame crash, due to the severe overestimation of sales Atari predicted and the resulting losses. The Crash was an event that knocked Atari out of the console market, and no matter how hard they tried, they could never recover. It was quite sad.
Ms. Pac has a strange history, one which Namco doesn't like to talk about. Ask any employee at Namco about Ms. Pac, and they'll probably say "Oh, yeah, we created her. Yep, that was totally us." or "Never mind that. Let's go drink sake and play Pachinko because we're Japanese you know."
The truth is, the original Ms. Pac-Man game was created not by Namco, but by HACKERS. That's right, hackers... like Oliver Wendell-Jones and those awesome kids with the stripey hair from that one movie about hackers, called "Hackers." People like that created the framework for what would end up becoming the most successful sequel Pac-Man ever had.
Hacks of the original Pac-Man game weren't exactly uncommon at the time. But it WAS uncommon for them to offer very significant improvements, and this is something Crazy Otto did. Whereas the original Pac-Man offered only one maze layout and stationary fruit, Crazy Otto had four different layouts and fruit that moved. GCC was pretty excited about this thing they made, and rightfully so, because Midway snapped it right up after it was presented to them. First, they replaced Crazy Otto (who was essentially Pac-Man with legs) with a version of Pac-Man that had a bow, some lipstick, and an adorable mole. Then, they added in a few new heartwarming cinemas.
With that, Midway offered the world Ms. Pac-Man, the timeless sequel
that stayed in arcades for years and years and YEARS until arcades
themselves completely died in in the 2000s... the sequel which stuck
around while Super Pac-man, Pac Land, Pacmania, and all the other sequels
came and went.
That same year, Ms. Pac got a port on the Atari 2600, and it could be described as "what the original 2600 Pac-Man should have been" as it eliminated the problems the original was infamous for, such as the awful colors and flickering. Ms. Pac could face all 4 directions, the ghosts all got their own colors, and the maze layouts are based on the arcade layouts. It was about as good as Ms. Pac could get with the 2600's limitations. It makes sense, seeing how the original team that created the arcade game in the first place was put in charge. So impressive were they that they handled a great deal of the games for Atari's home systems, especially the 5200 and 7800.
The giant Pac-Man sprite from the first intermission of the original game is back, and this time it gets involved in the actual game! Super Pac-Man is the first "true" Pac sequel developed by its true parents over in Japanland. In this, Pac got a more complicated playfield where several parts of the maze were blocked by doors. To unlock them, he had to eat keys. In the original game, keys appeared in the later stages, and merely provided a delicious snack for our hero, but here, they actually unlock doors. They can be kind of a hassle to get, however, so Pac can save time by eating his new powerup, the green Super Pellet!
This is where the name of the game comes into play. In this form, he
can "fly" above the ghosts like Superman and bust through doors like...
uh... Superman. The original Power Pellets are back as well, in case Pac
feels like eating the ghosts, and aside from that, the fruits which
originally served as bonus items in the original game provide Pac with his
main sustenance. There are no regular pellets to be
Why Midway felt the need to release this is mystifying, when they
already had sequels with actual upgrades like Ms. Pac and Super
It's as if Midway's programmers discovered a series of silly random
hacks for Pac-Man and decided to throw them all into a new game for people
who wanted a "harder" version of Pac-Man. It's the ol' philosophy of
"Really Fucking Annoying = More Difficult = FUN!"
A Pac-Man pinball game... Hey, why not? There's not
much I can say about this, as I was not big on pinball in my youth and
never played this, and of course I'm not going to find one of these
machines sitting around now. Looking at it, the concept looks kinda
interesting, as it featured a little LED "maze" in the middle, which you
can move Pac-Man around in after hitting targets on the
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man set a dangerous precedent as the first game to illustrate just how far- and how low- Midway was willing to go to squeeze money from the Pac-Man license. There's so much about this pinball game that's completely contrary to the spirit of Namco's arcade hit that you'll start to wonder if the design team ever played Pac-Man... or even liked it.
Just what's wrong with the game, you ask? Well, for starters, the sound effects are harsh and grating, punctuated by voice synthesis that bears an uncanny resemblence to Brad Garrett flossing with a cotton sweater. The bottom of the table is littered with drains that gobble up each of your three balls as quickly as you can fire them. Finally, the crude Pac-Man mini-game is a poor substitute for the real thing, playing as much like the shareware title Daleks as it does the arcade hit that allegedly inspired it.
The game's got one thing going for it... it rings the death knell
for the freaky depiction of Pac-Man once used to promote the series.
You won't find any formless, bug-eyed blobs in the Mr. and Mrs.
Pac-Man table artwork; just the spherical hero and his wife looking much
like they did in the cartoon. Aside from that, yeah, this pretty
Released a few months after Mr./Mrs., we
have this interesting little concept: a pinball/videogame hybrid. This is
a design that remains quite unique to this day, and an increasingly rare
game which, I hate to say, was not very good.
The 5200 was that Atari system which could have been really
good, if not for that "What Were They Thinking?" feature attached to it
which everyone has sad memories of; namely, the joystick that wouldn't
center on its own. I remember the Pac-Man games for the 5200 being pretty
damn good, but you can imagine how the joystick would hurt the play of a
game like this.